5 Pawsome Alternatives to Giving Christmas Puppies

Getting a puppy as a holiday gift can be challenging for the recipient. Instead, consider these alternative gifts with fewer complications.

Updated November 21, 2023
Father and daughter lying on bed with their dog

The scene looks like something out of a Hallmark movie: the tree is trimmed, the lights are lit, and the gifts are waiting to be opened. Suddenly, a box begins to wiggle and then tumbles over, spilling open to reveal an adorable puppy with a big red bow around their neck. It certainly sounds whimsical, but this is not a gift to be given lightly or without careful consideration. That initial delight could turn out to be a burden if the recipient isn't prepared to handle the needs of a living, breathing pet.

Getting the Facts About Christmas Dogs

It's pretty sad, but there are loads of dogs, even little pups, that get returned not long after they're given as presents. It happens a lot with folks who rent their place. Sometimes, their lease says no to pets, or they're just worried their furry buddy might mess something up, and they'll have to foot the bill. Plus, taking care of a dog is a big deal — it's not just playing fetch and cuddles; it's veterinary visits, walks, food, and a bunch of time.

And let's be real: not everyone is ready for that kind of commitment, especially if a puppy just lands in their lap without any heads-up.

Alternatives to Puppy-Giving on Christmas

Instead of grabbing a puppy that is oh-so-cute but requires a ton of responsibility, consider grabbing a different kind of gift for your pet-loving pals. There are plenty of options without your giftee having to pick up poop, pay the vet bill, or get smacked with the heartbreaking re-rehoming process. 

1. Foster a Pet for the Holidays

teenager taking selfies with dog

If your heart is set on having a furry companion for Christmas day, consider talking to your family about fostering a pet in need for the holiday season. You can demonstrate to your kiddos that helping a homeless dog is a great thing to do, and, as a bonus, you can see if the dog might actually be a match for you. (Many find out they are!) If so, you can adopt as a family. If not, you can help the dog get out of the shelter and relax for a few weeks — giving shelter staff a much-deserved break as well. 

2. Sponsor a Shelter Dog

Girl hugging golden retriever

Animal shelters really have it tough; they don't have much money but still work hard to take care of lots of animals. Even though it seems like they get enough from adoption fees and donations, running a shelter is super expensive. As someone who has worked in one, I can tell you that in most cases, the adoption fee doesn't even let them break even. 

When you give the gift of sponsoring a shelter dog, you're doing more than just giving a neat present — you're giving the shelter and the dog a much-needed lifeline. Your sponsorship gives crucial support to these places and changes a dog's life for the better, and that's sure to make the giftee's heart melt. Plus, you're backing up the shelter's important work of saving and finding new homes for pets. It's not just about giving something; it's about giving hope and making a real difference.

Quick Tip

Include a volunteer application in case they're interested — they might enjoy spending time with various dog breeds and personalities, they just might meet their match!

3. Custom Pet Portrait

Artist hiding behind aquarelle of a dachshund

One of the best gifts I have ever received is a hand-drawn and colored custom pet portrait of my old dog, who passed away. It's proudly displayed on my desk, and it's not just gorgeous to look at; it also keeps the flood of fond memories we created together alive and well in my heart. Although it's tempting to get someone a puppy after their dog passes, especially if it's been a few years, they may not be ready. Let them do that part on their own time. But while you're waiting for them to be ready, a portrait of the dog they hold in their heart can be a wonderful sentimental gift. 

4. Future Dog Basket

Dog themed gift baskets

A dog care package can be a super thoughtful gift for someone pondering the idea of puppy parenthood. Rather than surprising them with a puppy they haven’t met or bonded with, why not put together your version of a puppy starter kit? We're talking toys for playtime, treats for training, a snazzy leash for those first walks, a super cozy bed for snoozes, and maybe some grooming goodies to keep them looking sharp. You can be creative and have fun with this. 

Quick Tip

Grab a really cute basket to put everything in, but don't forget to make it sturdy so it doesn't get damaged before puppy adoption time.

5. Pet Adoption Voucher

Printable Christmas Gift Voucher Template, Santa Gift Certificate

Gifting a puppy can be a blast, and if you're sure that your friend or family member is keen on adding a furry little friend to their life, why not get creative with it? Whip up a charming card on Canva that captures your unique style with a playful message like, "Ready for puppy love? Let's find your new best friend together." Personalize it with your own flair and humor. You can even offer to cover the adoption fee.

It's crucial, though, to involve them in the process because choosing a puppy is a big deal. It's about finding that perfect match — that bundle of joy they're ready to welcome into their heart and home for the rest of that dog's life. It's certainly no small commitment. So, make the offer part of the gift — the promise of a shared adventure to pick out the perfect pup on their terms and when they're ready.

Adding to the Gift

If you're going with a pet adoption voucher or a future dog basket, it's more than just stuff — it's a gift that says you're there when they're ready for puppy parenthood. You can also add something that's not really needed but would be neat to have when the dog arrives.

A Pet Cam

Pet cams are super useful for puppy parents. They're able to see what their puppy is doing while they're away, and some of them even dispense treats. 


If you think they'll probably get a puppy soon, you can pay for a subscription to DogTV. It's specifically designed to capture dogs' attention and could help reduce puppy anxiety while their pet parent is away (or if they need a break for a minute from puppy parenting). 

Gift Card for Training

A gift card for training services can be huge. If you think they'd use it, check around at the local dog training businesses and ask if there's a gift card you can grab that doesn't have an expiration date. Petsmart, for example, has dog training, and you can grab a gift card to help pay for that.

Let Them Pick

Each family's journey with a new puppy is unique, and it's super important for them to pick out their own furry friend. They'll probably want to hang out with the little guy, see if they click, and really think about all the stuff that comes with raising a puppy.

As adorable as it is to gift a puppy for Christmas, it might not be the top-notch present you'd think. Why not check out some other options and have a blast getting everything ready for the day they bring home the pup they fall in love with?

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5 Pawsome Alternatives to Giving Christmas Puppies